Because television is a visual medium, what is seen often registers more vividly than what is said. From prestige dramas to reality-show schlock, TV relies on character contrasts, the sharper the better. Much the same is true of politics, whose practitioners like to speak of the importance of “optics.”
Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris was a study in contrasts that went well beyond their parties and positions. It may not have been riveting television, but it was revealing television.
The most significant difference, of course, was built into the evening from the start. History was made by the simple act of Harris, the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, sharing a stage (from a distance of 12 feet) with Pence. Another welcome, impossible-to-miss distinction was the evening’s civility compared with last week’s demolition derby masquerading as a presidential debate, which featured President